Infographic: Visualizing the 10 Largest Nuclear Explosions

Everyone understands that nuclear weapons can generate immense destructive power, but it’s often difficult to comprehend exactly how destructive they can be. The measurement of kilotons — a unit that’s equivalent to the explosive energy of one ton of TNT — gives us a rough frame of reference. It’s certainly easier than using the more precise unit, gigajoules. However, most of us have never seen a detonation of one ton of TNT, much less 1,000, so understanding the scale is still difficult. A new infographic from Visual Capitalist offers a comparison of the 10 largest nuclear explosions in history, showing the scale of the mushroom cloud in proportion to Mount Everest as well as the kiloton yield and total destructive radius.

Above: This diagram, also from Visual Capitalist, shows some of the characteristic features of a mushroom cloud. This updraft carries radioactive particles high into the atmosphere. Those particles eventually drift downward as fallout.

The Largest Nuclear Explosions

The first four of these record-setting nuclear weapons were tested by the United States between 1952 and 1954 at remote atolls in the Pacific Ocean. The remaining six most powerful nuclear explosions were carried out by the USSR in 1961 and 1962. Those weapons, along with more than 90 others during that two-year period, were detonated at Sukhoy Nos, several hundred miles off the northern coast of Soviet Russia.

Check out the infographic below, or head over to to read a few more details about each test.

If you’re interested in learning more about nuclear weapons, take a look at some of our previous articles on this topic:

Disclosure: These links are affiliate links. Caribou Media Group earns a commission from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

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